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Caught Mapping

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Caught Mapping

Publication date 1940
Digitizing sponsor Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
How road maps are drawn, field-checked and printed.


How maps are made from earliest times to the present. In modern times, the map makers call on automobiles with the stuff to help them in their survey and research jobs.

Ken Smith sez: A peppy narrator (the same one from Leave It To Roll-Oh) and fast-paced visuals try desperately to convince us that map making is exciting. The best sequences are those where we follow the "map detective" with his car full of instruments.

(Fade in) Hands unrolling scroll of old world map. CU hands measuring distance with caliper on old map; flame burning for light. CU hands holding magnifying glass; moving over old map. VS inc. CU hand adjusting old lamp in front of old map of North and South America. Hand lays down quill pen; sprinkles blotting sand over old map. Hands moving straight edge over nineteenth century map of the U.S.
CU engraver scribing printing plate for map.
Diamond wipe from center frame to shot of large printing press. Pan down and left to show printed sheets accumulating.
White convertible slowing to stop on country road. CU woman's gloved hand touches lock button on glove compartment; pulls it open to reveal road maps within; pulls out one map; closes compartment.
CU 2 smiling women, in front seat of convertible, consulting road map; one looks up and points ahead, then nods in affirmation as the other points elsewhere. LS white convertible turning right, pulling away (fade to black).
(Fade in from black) CU of ringing alarm bell.
CU hand; forefinger presses top button on 4-button relay switch. Sound of alarm bell ringing.
VS large printing presses operating; rollers visible; press slows to stop.
MS printer pulling large sheet of paper off pile of printed sheets on press. Printer turns from press holding sheet; moves towards camera; spreads sheet out for inspection. CU printer facing camera; laying sheet out on table. Foreman wearing vest and tie enters frame from right; looks at printed maps. 'V' wipe to next shot.
'V' wipe to draftsman in vest unrolling master map drawing acetate onto drafting table; pulls roll of tape out of back pocket and prepares to peel some off. 2 draftsmen at corner of table working on map transparency.
CU hand drawing on transparency with pen (master map drawing of central California). Square wipe expands from bottom center of frame, showing inset of California. Desert map, including Banning, Hemet, Palm Springs and Beaumont. Dissolve from map to drawing showing roads and land forms of the same area. CU animated (pixillated) hand drawing symbol on drawing of highway as it extends over mountain pass. Dissolve to next shot.
CU large sign indicating "Construction Detour" with arrow. VS car approaching same detour sign in middle of desert. CU 2 men seated in front seat of car, driving on bumpy road. (shot through windshield). Car driving through sandy wash alongside concrete bridge.
CU right hand sketching map on graph paper, showing detour through sandy wash. CU 2 men seated in front seat of car, driving on bumpy road. (shot through windshield).
CU speedometer and altimeter on automobile dashboard. Part of a compass is visible in lower part of frame.
Black sedan driving slowly along unfinished, graded rural road, keeping to left as it approaches camera at 3/4 angle (drives out of frame at right). Same sedan driving along unpaved shoulder of road; pulls onto highway.
CU hands holding field notebook and transfering notes onto large map drawing. Square wipe from bottom center of screen revealing insert of printed map of Death Valley, California. Dissolve to drawing detailing landforms and major highways. CU animated (pixillated) hand drawing squiggle on map to denote road condition.
CU large sign indicating 'Construction Ahead: Drive Slowly.'
Black sedan in distance, in desolate desert, approaching sign. Men seated in front seat of moving car passing construction sign (over shoulder shot). CU hand drawing line on U.S. topographical map with pencil.
LS desert mountain road winding down from hills; black sedan drives down road towards camera. Black sedan driving through desert. CU 2 men in front seat of moving car
ECU precision speedometer; dial indicates 0-100 MPH. Needle indicates 39 MPH. Pan left along dashboard to standard auto speedometer indicating 38 MPH.
CU hand drawing figure on U.S. topographical map with pencil.
LS desert highway. Construction equipment runs by camera on left. Fast moving sedan (from right to left at 3/4 angle; passing by camera on left). Same sedan passing by sign indicating "Caution: Men At Work," and by flagman who waves car on. LS car leaving road and driving into construction site passed active earthmoving equipment; parking.
VS 3 surveyors standing and talking beside thermometer outside of tent at desert construction site. CU hand holding old-fashioned mercury thermometer indicating 116 degrees F. Man wiping his face and inside of hat with cloth while another man drinks cup of water from cooler.
LS desert scene with sand dunes and small decaying tree trunk. Man dressed in khakis and wearing hat enters from left. CU as he kneels down and opens case containing portable surveying equipment. CU U.S. Geological Survey bench mark; next to it a hand holding portable altimeter. CU man kneeling; checks reading against his clipboard; makes notes. CU bench mark. CU man repacking case; rises; walks out of frame.
Black sedan driving through construction site passed active earthmoving equipment; pulls onto highway; drives away from camera. CU hand scribing onto master map drawing. Square wipe from bottom center of frame exposes road map of northeastern Los Angeles County, including Pasadena, Mt. Wilson Observatory, etc. Dissolve to drawing of landforms and roads in same area. CU animated (pixillated) hand enters and draws lines over road to indicate closure.
Forested mountain road in California. Large sign indicating "Danger: Road Closed" fills frame (men with pick axes in BG).
LS from high angle, curve on forested (evergreens) mountain road; car driving in FG. LS car approaching camera. LS mountain road with work crew around sign indicating 'Danger: Road Closed.' CU car window, driver (wearing hat) leans out, requests admittance. LS work crew moving sign to side of road. CU driver; pulls his head back into car. LS car driving (passed camera on left). LS car passing crew and sign; workers move sign back into position. Black sedan traveling down bumpy, graded mountain road; pulls to stop.
ECU of "Grade Meter" showing 15% and 30% grades. Black sedan parked on scenic hillside.
ECU man wearing hat, in front seat of car, writing. ECU hand writing "18%" on topographical map.
LS dark sedan parked on mountain road; driving. Surveyor, wearing boots and hat, walks into frame from right; approaches standing black sedan; leans elbow on open window; talks to driver. VS 2 men talking. Stencil on car door indicating "State Highway Dept." 2 men looking offscreen; one pointing. LS highway construction site. LS eroded dirt cliff. 2 men finish conversation; black sedan drives off.
Surveyor, wearing hat, looking offscreen. 3 laborers with tools enter frame; all look offscreen in same direction. Mountain road, graded at 30 degree angle; pan left to follow dark sedan driving up hill rapidly, then away from camera as road levels off. Cluster of trees alongside road. Car kicking up dust from road. VS foreman and 3 laborers looking offscreen. Foreman nods head slightly; laborers laugh; all 4 begin walking offscreen to right. Dark sedan driving on mountainous dirt roads; down hillside; stops at roadside.
MS man wearing white shirt and vest unrolling transparent map overlay film.
VS copy camera procedures. MS worker tilting huge copyboards towards camera; adjusting lens on copy camera. CU frontal shot of camera. Man enters with plate negative; places it on camera. MS man adjusting light source on large printer. VS man cleaning area for washing lithographic plates.
VS map printing operations. MS (from below) printer feeding sheet of paper into press. CU finished pages piling up in press (great shot). LS large sheet-fed press from above; pan right and down to show folded maps emerging from conveyor as worker collects finished maps. Iris out to actual map.
Iris out to CU simplified road map of oil region in California's Central Valley. 3 shots of surveyor's sedan irisis in and remains in frame over map.
Pan up from CU of highway median to LS of divided rural highway (Pennsylvania Turnpike). Dissolve to similar shot of Penn. Tpke. (shot from overpass). Disolve to LS Tuscarora Mountain tunnel, shot from median at road level. Dissolve to LS scenic highway curve; road winds through mountain pass. (Fade to black over fanfare.)



Reviewer: JayKay49 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 13, 2012
Subject: Coachella Valley Was Pretty Sparse Then
Nice shots of Palm Springs environs, when it was apparently about 5% developed and those other cities weren't even thought of yet.

I shudder to think those boys go out in that rattlesnake infested wilderness in 110+ heat on rubble with those old timey tires which were always good for a blowout just when you least expected it and farthest from civilization.

Also looked like they were doing some road building on Big Bear as well.

Nice film that shows how maps are made - and laughably uses the word "modern" about 50 times.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 3, 2004
Subject: The Amazing Adventures of the Map Detectives
This Jam Handy film breezily describes to us the field of cartography, showing us how roadmaps are researched and printed. I personally find this to be pretty interesting, though others might not. The film also has historical value in that it gives us a good idea of how maps were made and the conditions of roads during the 40s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavorite - February 26, 2003
Subject: They spelled it wrong :P
This overview on mapping is quite well put together and breezily edited. It tells of how maps are constantly changing, and how the cartographers make the changes. If that appeals to you, then by all means watch it. All others, stay away, or else be caught napping :)
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